Laudomia Loves Margaret (Reprise)

The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast – Episode 32d with Heather Rose Jones

The 16th century romance between Sienese poet and intellectual Laudomia Forteguerri and Duchess Margaret of Austria.

In this episode we talk about

  • Translations and the context of the poetry Laudomia wrote for Margaret can be found in:
    • Eisenbichler, Konrad. “Laudomia Forteguerri Loves Margaret of Austria” in Same Sex Love and Desire Among Women in the Middle Ages (ed. By Francesca Canadé Sautman & Pamela Sheingorn), Palgrave, New York, 2001.
  • Which is discussed in the blog in this entry
  • A transcript of this podcast is available here.

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please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect

This is Heather Rose Jones with a lesbian historic motif podcast this weekly podcast looks at lesbian themes in history and literature and historic research into gender and sexuality we talk about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past and have interviews with authors who write those stories and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original lesbian historical fiction for your enjoyment this week I plan to do the next installment discussing the various ways people in history created definitions and categories for gender and sexuality but I’m in the middle of novel revisions and came down with a miserable head cold during a critical free weekend as you may be able to tell from my voice and I simply don’t have the time or brainpower to write a new show so instead I’m going to reprise another of the early episodes I hope you enjoy this essay whether you’re one of the lucky people who’s heard it before or whether this is your first time this show originally aired on December 31st 2016 the lesbian talk show relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support the lesbian talk show in Plato’s myth of the origin of love a myth that accounts for both opposite-sex and same-sex love he describes how all people were originally part of a double body split from each other and eternally seeking their other half in his 1541 dialogue titled on the beauty of women italian philosopher and Yola francois la expands on this saying those who were female in both halves or are descended from those who were love each other’s beauty some impurity and holiness as the elegant domi afford Agora loves the most illustrious Margaret of Austria some lasciviously as an ancient time Sappho from lesbos and in our own times in Rome the great prostitute Cecilia vanetti Anna this type of woman by nature spurns marriage and flees from intimate conversation with us men now I’m curious to know a lot more about Cecilia vanetti Anna but alas this is the extent of her footprint in history however we know a great deal about ladonia for de guerra and Margaret of Austria Ferran swallow was a contemporary and friend of theirs and no doubt was careful in how he described their relationship the signora de Brent home writing half a century later in France and knowing only rumour and gossip asserted that their love fell in the savea’s category what evidence do we have to search for the truth between these two claims loud Oh Mia was a member of the ruling families of the Republic of Siena in Italy you must understand that a sixteenth century Italy it was far from a unified country it was made up of a lot of separate states often at war with each other large chunks were ruled by the Vatican known collectively as the papal States other chunks were ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor who controlled lands in Germany Austria the Netherlands Spain and elsewhere in addition to Italy other parts of Italy were independent such as Florence or the Medicis or Mantua under the Gonzaga’s Siena was another one of these states ruled by a coalition of noble families and struggling to maintain their independence from the greater powers all around them laud Omiya for de guerra as I have said was Sienese she was famed for being beautiful and educated a true renaissance woman in every sense of the term scholars dedicated books to her and her own poetry was highly praised among those poems are five sonnets addressed and dedicated to Margaret of Austria expressing her devotion admiration and love I’m unable to pronounce Italian well enough to give you the original version and the translation alas does not rhyme and scan but here is the sense of one of her poems alas for my beautiful son will not turn its holy Ray’s towards me must I therefore live without my treasure may it not please God that I should ever live on earth without it ah cruel fortune why do you not arrange it for my body to go where my heart goes why do you keep me in this wretched state with no hope ever that my woes will end turn at last happy and benign your face towards me for it is not a glorious deed to cut someone down of the feminine sex listen to my words how they are ready to beseech you for I want nothing else but that you keep me close to my goddess but who is Margaret of Austria oh why is loud Omiya writing her poetry in 1521 a serving woman named johanna maria von der gainst became the mistress of the holy roman emperor charles v for those not familiar with the intricacies of the genealogies of 16th century royalty you know how Queen Elizabeth the first of England’s older sister Mary was married to king philip ii of spain well Charles the fifth was Philips father it gets really complicated and I’ll try to keep the political discussions simple so Emperor Charles had an affair with a servant and a year later she produced a daughter who was named Margaret and placed in the care of her aunt Charles’s sister also named Margaret of Austria who was serving as governor of the Netherlands at the time when I first encountered this description I was I confess a little stunned wait wait a woman was governor of the Netherlands so obviously there’s a lot about Renaissance history that even I an amateur historian have somehow missed an emperor’s children are never insignificant even the bastards and for the first several years of her life Margaret is referred to in the household records simply as the little bastard when Margaret was three there were thoughts of betrothing her to a bastard to the Medici family the Medicis were extremely important in Italy at this time not only ruling Florence but supplying several popes it’s also important to know that 16th century popes were not exactly a model of propriety in virtue you’re going to meet several bastard sons of popes in this story but I get ahead of myself as I said when Margaret was 3 that was talking betrothing her to a Medici when she was 4 she was briefly betrothed to the heir of the Duchy of Ferrara when she was 7 it’s back to the Medicis again but a different one this time she was betrothed to the Pope’s nephew some said actually his son named Alessandro a man 10 years her senior with a terrible reputation but this was business Margaret the bastard would become Duchess of Florence bringing an extensive dowry of lands and the military support of the Holy Roman Empire not only for Florence but for the Medici papacy the year after that the empire occupies Siena and establishes the military garrison there remember Siena where ladonia lives they aren’t happy about this when Margaret is 8 her future husband Alessandro de Medici travels to the Netherlands to meet her this is also the first occasion when she meets her father the Emperor to face the marriage is scheduled to take place four years later and preparations are made for a grand procession to convey Margaret Diddley she settles in Naples for the interim and then the Pope dies he is succeeded by a member of the far Nazy family who ruled in Parma now the Medicis aren’t looking like quite the same hot property that they were before there is some dithering about the marriage but the Florentines apply pressure and Margaret Mary’s Alessandro when she’s 13 although she’s installed as Duchess of Florence it’s quite likely that this is still a marriage in name only child marriages among medieval and renaissance nobility often came with an understanding that the marriage wouldn’t be consummated until the bride was a reasonable age something that isn’t always understood from the bare facts whatever the nature of Margaret’s marriage it didn’t last long Alessandro as I’ve said had a terrible reputation both personally and politically half a year later he was assassinated by his own cousin to the cheers of the citizens of Florence Margaret doesn’t have long to enjoy her widowhood the next year she is betrothed to a tv– Oh for nazy remember that the new pub is of her nazy this is his grandson Margaret is 16 and this time she’s older than her future husband by four years she’s on record as despising him and trying all sorts of things to get out of the marriage but she has taken to Rome in preparation and as she travels to Rome she passes through Siena and spends three weeks there remember Siena where ladonia lives at this time ladonia is 23 she is married and has produced a son and we know that Aldo mia and Margaret meet on this occasion a contemporary of theirs says that they also met three years earlier and describes it this way at their first meeting as soon as ladonia saw madama that is margaret and was seen by her suddenly with the most ardent flames of love each burned for the other and the most manifest sign of this was that they went to visit each other many times on one of those subsequent meetings as he describes they renewed most happily their sweet loves and today more than ever with notes from one the other they warmly maintain them alas none of this correspondence has survived only the poems here’s another one of the poems that lado mia wrote for Margaret happy plant so cherished in heaven where nature placed all its Ultimates when it set out to create so much beauty I speak of my goddess Marguerite of Austria I know well that she departed from heaven only in order to show us divine things God sculpted her and with his own hand crafted this woman so beloved by him and favoured if God was so generous to us with his gift with showing us the glory of his kingdom do not disdain to show her somehow to me and if I have left you a token of my heart in return send a portrait of yourself skillfully made here to me where my eyes are Margaret continued on to Rome and set out to win the hearts of the people of Rome who weren’t all that fond of the foreign AC Pope and by association of her future husband at Aveo she has her own villa there in Rome which she fills with scholars and artists although she tries to delay the marriage she is tricked into receiving a ring that is then held to be a token for acceptance relying on the support of the people of Rome and the political indifference of her father the Emperor she refuses to consummate the marriage by this time ladonia has finished braiding her sonnets to Margaret political satires at the time accused the far nazy’s of all sorts of sexual vices and margaret was accused of being a lesbian in this context an accusation that may have been mere mud flinging or may have been based on actual knowledge what was definitely noted was that although Margaret did obey her father’s ultimatum and produced twin sons for her husband she returned to living separately from him after that and in an age of sexual scandal her name is never associated with any male lover and at least one political commenter notes that she has no interest in men he intended it as a positive comment on her virtue Italian political are getting even more violent margaret takes up her position as duchess in parma and finds herself besieged by her neighbors the Gonzaga’s ironically her father the emperor supports them in this because Margaret’s husband has started playing political foot seat France let’s skip the details of what France is doing in all this except to note that Siena remember Siena it’s also calling on French support against the Holy Roman Empire and it too comes under siege as a result during the siege of Siena the dough mia is recorded as having valiantly organized the women of the city to help strengthen the city walls but eventually the combined forces of Florence and the empire went out and Siena Falls now domion never appears by name in any records after that date the only tantalizing clue we have is that 18 years later laudo Mia’s second husband makes a will that makes reference to a living wife it’s possible of course that he is remarried after all the political uproar settles down for a bit Margaret and Octavio make peace with the Emperor and Margaret travels to the Netherlands with her one surviving son to place him in the guardianship of her half-brother Philip in whose favor Charles has just retired from the imperial throne Margaret ends up staying in the Netherlands and even serves a couple stints as governor there before eventually returning to Italy to spend the rest of her life this is all a great deal about politics with not quite so much about the love between ladonia and Margaret but we know a great deal more about the former than we do the latter we do know that they met and that they loved each other by some understanding of the word love we know that contemporaries who admired them considered their love to be that of two souls finding their other half we know that loud Omiya wrote poems to Margaret they used the language and imagery of romantic love imagery that would be considered to imply sexual desire if used from a man to a woman and we know that Margaret was notorious for disdaining and avoiding sexual relations with her husband even when that avoidance caused significant personal difficulties that seems quite enough as a basis for imagining what a love affair between two Renaissance noble women might look like I have imagined just such a thing in my short story where my heart goes which is included in the historic romance anthology through the hourglass edited by Sachi Greene and Paddy G Henderson and I even dared to imagine how to give them happy ending I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast if you want to follow up on anything we’ve covered see the show notes for links and to contact me with questions book announcements or topic suggestions if you enjoyed this podcast please read it and subscribe on itunes stitcher or pod bean and consider supporting our patreon and if you’re on facebook check out the lesbian talk show chat group [Music] you [Music]